In front of the heavy just shut door of the Pesters’ Guild, Gornix (played by Gil) introduced Doubab the ratter to the group. After a short time he agreed to guide them into the rat fights underneath the Ruined Wall. It would be in a few hours at sundown that evening. As they departed their guide on their way to kill the last remaining few hours at the Red Helm Fauna (played by Jenn) pulled a bundle of rat-tails from her cloak.
It was the bunch that the pickpocket (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 6: Gold Devil) had dropped when Fauna caught him trying to pick the golden bee. The bunch tied with a broad yellow ribbon. As she handed it to Doubab, “for your troubles” Excor (played by Cris) and Athfonia (played by Perla) saw a slight change pass over his already pinched features. They walked back across the city to the Red Helm tavern to wait until near sundown.
Later, as they stumbled out of the Helm’s door into the street they realized something. They were still wounded from their fight with the red imps. Gornix tucked a dusty carved-glass bottle of whiskey he had bought from the bartender for 8 gp into his robes. He cast Close Wounds on Szoosha (played by Isis). Excor followed suit casting Close Wounds on Fauna who had just chugged a full tankard before hitting the door.
They tried to avoid the main streets deciding to weave through the alleyways as they headed east towards their appointment. This was due to their fearing that jumping one of the city’s criminals might have dire consequences. They reached a fairly wide, round mini-plaza as the building dwarfing aqueducts worked their way north to a public fountain across from the Old Amphitheater. The place was quiet, dark, and deserted save for the small clumps of garbage that lay everywhere. Some of the lighter bits of the detritus stirred and slid across the old paving in a chill evening breeze.
It was when they neared a massive arch that three thugs stepped from behind the wall. One armed with a pair of knives, one in each hand, another with a crude wooden cudgel and the apparent leader was armed with a quarter staff. All were wearing scavenged soft leather armor reinforced with a maddening number of studs and rivets.
Staff-Bearing Thug: “So what do we have here? Y’know we followed you guys for quite a while. You remember what you Did! You robbed a Bronzehead, now’s yer gonna give us back his dagger and suffer the consequences!”
Athfonia immediately tried to cast Call Lightning but failed. Excor drew his copper spike and zapped the Cudgel bearing thug hurting him. Gornix tried to summon an earth elemental but failed. Szoo cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (Fire) on himself. Fauna cast Sleep on the Pole-Fighter but to no effect. The Pole-Fighter ran up critically striking Fauna with one end of his staff. Fortunately Fauna parried the other with her dagger. The knife-fighter slashed at Szoosha but was unable to penetrate the Naga’s fiery armor. The cudgel-thug attacked Excor but missed with a clumsy swing.
Gornix cast Summon Elemental IV summoning two medium sized earth elementals which erupted from the ground right next to two of the young thugs. The first humanoid rock creature snatched up the pole-fighter in an unbreakable grip. The second monster body slammed the knife-fighter wounding him badly after the mugger failed his dodge. Szoo summoned forth his fire naginata and slashed at the cudgel thug opening his belly killing him. Meanwhile the thug-leader, the pole-fighter, strained desperately trying to break the stony grip that held him fast. Gornix cast Chrono-Missile on the knife-fighter wounding him horribly.
On Gornix’s orders one of the elementals squeezed the pole-fighter. The thug-leader screamed at a high pitch and they could hear some of his ribs crack as blood ran from his nose and mouth. The second elemental slammed into the already wounded knife-fighter. His corpse reduced to a wad of blood-soaked rags flew about 20 feet through the air ultimately splattering all over the wall of a nearby building. The pole-fighter began pathetically begging for his life and crying that he “didn’t want to die”.
After a brief interrogation Gornix got the name of the Bronzehead whose knife they took when they tried to capture him (see The Cabal of Eight Pt. 7: A Red Rat). It was “Drazra”. These three were just wannabe’s that Drazra had recruited to get his dagger back and teach the four mages that accosted him a lesson. After a brief speech on the perils of street life by Gornix, they let the beaten and bleeding pole-fighter limp away into the shadows of the darkening city. After Excor and Szoo looted the corpses they continued on their way to the Rat Fights.
They eventually met Doubab in a small building-locked plaza in front of the ragged end of the Ruined Wall. The old archer galleries served as an enclosed and self-governed town within the city. There was a long line of people representative of all of the social strata of Ezmer. They were waiting their turn to walk under makeshift stone archway. It seemed to lead through a flickering firelight to a stair down under the open face of the Ruined Wall. A pair of chain-shirted Bronzehead thugs were acting as security and charging a door fee.
Doubab the ratter shuffled them into line and eventually down into the excavated pits in and below the foundation of the old wall. Of course, after they each paid the 1 silver piece cover charge. They walked down into a large rectangular chamber with a terraced floor at four different levels. The rats were unleashed on each other in a small depression packed with cages and trainers at the deepest level over which all the other levels looked over.
There were several open archways some undoubtedly led into the sewer system underneath the city. A few had doors which perhaps led to the upper levels of the Ruined Wall. Each guarded by an armored Bronzehead. On the top tier floor were the betting tables with a visible and small force of well-armed thugs. The golden light of torches, braziers, and oil lamps permeated the place as did the overpowering scent of strong incense leaking from large brass censers hovering like a thick fog over the slight moist stench of the city sewers.
Fauna spotted a fat merchant in blue robes running a table that she recognized from the Druid Cult (see The Cabal of Eight Pt.2: Wagon Ho!) by his golden necklace, a jeweled dragonfly. She leaned in and eventually clued him in on how she recognized him. He referred to her as “little sister” and warned her not to be too public about their “thing”. She walked away and they both nodded as she departed.
Szoo (to Fauna): “What the hell was THAT?!”
Fauna (with a sly smile): “Oh nothing.”
Cris (Excor’s Player)(sarcastically): “Oh yeah, nothing! Right. It’s her little stupid cult thing! Yeah, nothing. Don’t get mixed up in that s#!*!”
The young mages gathered about the edge of the second from the bottom tier to watch the sport.
Fauna (after the first match): “This is DISGUSTING guys! I refuse to watch this!”
Excor: “Why? You knew what this was. It’s called the rat fights! The RAT FIGHTS!”
At about the third match, the match announced to pit the Pesters’ Guild Rat named ‘Old Man’ against ‘a promising newcomer’ named ‘Gnaw-Skull’ owned by the Underlings. The Old Man was a rather large rat missing large patches of hair and its body a scorecard in scars of its brutal career. While the Underlings’ rat was a slightly smaller black rat with long yellow teeth. The Old Man was fat and calm as the cages were held and paraded for the benefit of the gamblers. In contrast Gnaw-Skull was hostile to its handler through the woven wood bars of its cage.
Hence Excor and Szoo rushed to the tables to place their bets on the ‘Old Man’ whom the odds favored by a mile. Predictably the Old Man tore Gnaw-Skull apart in record time. As a result, the Underlings, a group of sketchy looking and filthy ratlings wearing crude leather armor and armed with fairly nice daggers and short-swords, were in an uproar. Excor and Szoo won 1 silver piece each.
The Underlings were preparing to cut their losses and leave when the mages decided to approach the one that appeared to be their leader. As a result of Excor dropping Afsik’s name their leader, a ratling with an eye-patch and whitening gray fur, approached from a dark corner of the pits. He lit his pipe while appraising the young mages one at a time with his blood-shot eye.
Dusk: “I’m Dusk, the ratling yer lookin’ fer. Afsik’s got faith enough in ya to send you ta us then I guess we’ll take you. Now. Follow us magelings.”
Gornix was going to say goodbye to Doubab but his contact to the Pesters’ Guild seemed utterly consumed in the sport of the rat-fights. So he decided to simply leave with the rest of the cabal mages. They were led down into one of the large lower archways and continued around a bend until the air signaled that they had left the fighting pits.
At first it was a relief from the pungent scented smoke until the cool air became even more pungent with the metallic smell of fresh, wet sewage. The only light came from Fauna’s lantern which she had lit as they disembarked and the glowing crystal on top of Gornix’s staff.
Dusk: “Oh yeah, if ya see a fog creepin’ over the waters or clingin’ to the ceiling don’t stick yer face in it.”
Dusk: “Its sewer gas and it’ll kill ya. It’s flammable too.”
To Be Continued…